Free State Stars were denied a Telkom Knockout semi-final spot by a late Knowledge Musona equaliser and a brilliant display from Itumeleng Khune during a penalty shoot-out
A drama-filled second half saw Sadate Ouro-Akoriko score a penalty to give Ela Lla Kotla the lead, only for Chiefs to hit back in the dying embers through a classy Knowledge Musona header.
After 120 minutes of gruelling cup football in testing conditions, a penalty shoot-out saw Chiefs prevail after Itumeleng Khune starred during the spot-kicks, denying Mashego and Ouro-Akoriko to help Chiefs win 4-2.
Willard Katsande missed a glorious opportunity early on as Chiefs started like a house on fire, drilling a half volley wide after Agyei punched the ball into the path of the midfielder.
Stars almost benefitted from some poor defence by Chiefs, as Abraw rose impressively to power a header onto the crossbar with six minutes on the clock.
Venter was in action two minutes later, utilising his pace to down the right flank and bringing the best out of Khune by driving a low shot on target, which forced the keeper to dive to his right.
Chiefs’ quest to win a 14th Knockout Cup looked under threat as Ela Lla Kotla unlocked AmaKhosi’s defence in the 30th minute, Basit Adams unable to find the target after Venter burst into the box and provided the striker with an inch perfect pass in the area.
It was the best chance of the half, which settled down as the players began to contend with the deteriorating conditions, affecting their passing on numerous occasions.
The second half saw conditions rapidly worsen, with both sides struggling to keep their footing on the slippery pitch.
However, AmaKhosi dominated play and were unlucky not to take the lead with Lebese the culprit. Agyei’s poor attempt to punch the ball clear gave the winger a glorious opportunity to put Chiefs ahead, but his left-footed strike failed to find the open goal and rebounded off the crossbar.
The pressure finally told for Ela Lla Kotla, as Knowledge Musona was brought down in the box by Sibusiso Mthethwa, the referee instantly signalling for a penalty kick.
However, drama unfolded as Bernard Parker’s penalty was brilliantly saved by Agyei and the striker’s attempt to bury the rebound resulted in a yellow card, after he landed a kick into the keeper’s midriff.
With twenty minutes to go and the rain finally abating, Free State Stars landed what may have been the killer blow, Katsande pulling Mashego to the floor inside his area which resulted in a spot-kick for the home side.
Sadate Ouro-Akoriko stepped up and hit the target, sending Khune the wrong way to earn a vital lead for Stars with 18 minutes left in the match.
Chiefs tried to launch a comeback as Bernard Parker almost atoned for his penalty miss, curling a shot onto the bar as time began to run out for the visitors.
A flurry of chances followed for Chiefs, and the visitors finally equalised with three minutes to go, a perfectly weighted delivery from Gaxa finding the deadly Musona, who did well to direct his header on target and put Chiefs on equal terms.
Extra-time ensued, with Chiefs forced to make two changes, Tshabalala and the goal-scorer Musona replaced due to injury concerns.
The sides traded blows during the early stages of extra-time, Khune troubled by a low skidding shot from Mashego, while Lebese skied an attempt into the stands after a scintillating run.
The final test of the players' fitness failed to provide a winner, and it became the Khune versus Agyei show as a penalty shootout decided who would qualify for the semi-final stage.
Khune drew first blood, saving Mashego's opening spot-kick and giving Chiefs an advantage in the shootout. Letsholonyane netted Chiefs' opening spot-kick, while Khune was the hero once again as he denied Ouro-Akoriko with a brilliant save low to his right.
Katsande maintained Chiefs' growing advantage, while Mongezi Bobe finally put Stars on the board with a clinical finish. Dladla's cheeky chip put Chiefs 3-1 up, but Ela Lla Kotla stayed in the shoot-out as Paulus Masehe sent a shot crashing into the roof of the net.
Parker, who missed a penalty earlier in the match, finally atoned for his miss and sealed the match for Chiefs. AmaKhosi march on towards their 14th Telkom Knockout trophy, but had to dig deep in order to defeat a stoical Stars outfit.